FSA Survey Reveals Reduction of Campylobacter in Retail Chickens

UK - The Food Standards Agency (FSA) yesterday published the last set of results from its survey of campylobacter contamination in fresh UK-produced supermarket chickens.
calendar icon 19 October 2017
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The full year’s (August 2016 - July 2017) results have shown that on average, across the entire market, 6.5 per cent of chickens tested positive for the highest level of contamination, (over 1,000 colony forming units per gram – cfu/g). This is down from 19.7 per cent in 2014/15 when the survey began.

The last survey was based on a total of 3,980 whole fresh retail chicken samples.

The FSA's survey results revealed that the figure for high-level campylobacter prevalence (more than 1,000 cfu/g) among the top nine retailers (based on market share) was 5.6 per cent.

What the FSA refers to as the 'Others' group - comprising smaller retailers and butchers - had a significantly higher prevalence at 17.1 per cent compared to the top nine retailers.

The retailers with significantly lower prevalence than the average among all retailers were Morrisons (2.9 per cent), Tesco (4.2 per cent) and Waitrose (2.7 per cent).

A significant drop was noted in the 2016/17 survey at 54 per cent as compared with the previous survey (2014/15) which stood at 73.2 per cent.

In the last period of the third annual survey - ranging from April to July 2017 - based on a total of 1,437 chickens sampled, 5.9 per cent had high levels of campylobacter (over 1,000 cfu/g) down from 20.1 per cent for the same period in 2014.

FSA announces changes to future campylobacter retail surveys

On 21 September, the FSA announced changes to its annual campylobacter retail survey. The top nine retailers (based on market share) will now publish their own campylobacter results on their consumer websites and no longer be included in the FSA’s annual survey.

The sampling and analyses they carry out will be in accordance with robust protocols laid down by the FSA, so all results will still be comparable. We will also have access to the raw data to verify samples and determine industry averages and we will have the right to comment publicly on the results.

The FSA’s annual survey will in future concentrate on smaller retailers, independent traders and market stalls as these are more likely to be supplied by smaller processors.

Heather Hancock, Chair of the FSA, said: "The full year’s results from our third annual survey show the significant progress the industry has made in reducing campylobacter levels in chicken, compared with their starting point.

"The major retailers are now taking on the responsibility to publish their own results, according to a protocol we have agreed. This is a welcome step towards greater transparency.

"Whilst we will keep a close eye on the performance of bigger retailers, it means the FSA can now focus our efforts on smaller establishments, where we haven't yet seen the same level of improvement and where more progress needs to be made."

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